MSPs: Here’s How to Break Bad News to Your Customers

MSPs: Here’s How to Break Bad News to Your Customers

June 3

As an MSP, VAR, or any owner of any type of business, you’ve probably had to deliver bad news to your customers. This could be any number of things whether it’s informing them that their prices are about to go up or that you’ll no longer be able to provide a certain service. In any case, these things can be tough because you don’t want angry customers when you rely so heavily on their business. With a little help from Forbes and Mind Tools, let’s look at the best way to inform clients of changes they might not be so happy about.

Your Perspective and Their Perspective

You probably have good reasons for delivering bad news, so you should understand full well what your perspective is. The tricky thing is understanding how your clients will feel about your news. The first commandment on the Forbes’ Ten Commandments of Delivering Bad News is “Thou shalt always treat people with respect and dignity.” This means that before you craft any type of message, you’ve got to think about how customers will see this from their perspective and make sure what you’re saying doesn’t belittle them in any way. These are the people you depend on the most, so make sure they feel respected. Understand also that you’ve probably got different types of clients who might take the news in different ways. You should do your best to try and understand what this bad news means from all their perspectives.

Transparency and Honesty

Honesty is really the best policy when it comes to bad news. Suppose you’re increasing prices on one of your services because a price increase from a vendor forced you to. In this case, it’s wise to explain to them that you’re increasing prices because of a vendor and not because you want higher profits. On the flip side, you might actually need higher profits in order to provide the same level of service to clients. Doing what needs to be done to provide solid service isn’t something you should feel ashamed of. In most cases you probably have a good reason for making changes and that’s something your clients should be made aware of.

Timing and Surprises

Forbes lists “Thou shalt never surprise” as the tenth commandment. It’s particularly difficult not to surprise clients when it comes to bad news, especially when they likely have no reason to believe anything would be changing. What’s best is to inform them of an impending change well ahead of time (the ninth commandment is “Thou shalt never delay”), rather than waiting to tell them and making large changes immediately after informing them. Whatever you can do to minimize the surprise and impact of the change is something you likely want to consider. If it’s got to happen, let them know, there’s no sense in dragging things like this out.

Value and Justification

Just because you have some bad news doesn’t mean you aren’t dedicated to providing a solid value for your clients, even if a few things might be changing. This goes along with transparency, but you need to be able to justify what you’re doing. If you can’t, then why is it happening? There are occasions where bad news has to happen because of a provider you use or for other reasons, but clients ultimately need to be able to understand that something is changing for a good reason. Of course, we’re sensitive to the fact that sometimes price increases happen because you simply want more profit. If that’s the case, you still need to provide a solid value for what your clients are paying.

Silver Linings and Solutions

Putting a positive spin on your news is always smart. Perhaps some part of your bad news isn’t a permanent change, or is something that might mean your clients pay a little more now for a lot of savings later. Think about things like hardware and software upgrades, Server 2003 end-of-life is next year, after all. Yes, these are expensive updates, but clients will also get premium features and increased productivity, security, and reliability—it might not be that bad of news after all.

Of course, there might not always be a silver lining, which is why it’s important to prepare answers and solutions, because any upsetting change likely comes with a variety of questions from clients. Prepare to answer these questions, and make sure you’ve got solutions that will work for all your clients because everybody adapts to change differently.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons